Did you see?
I opened the email from Richard, sent a few days after our drink, to find a link to a post on the Hollywood Reporter, about William's return to CWA. He also asked me for my home address so he could send my parents a thank you note.
I didn't see this, but I know he went back. We're having dinner tonight. He wants to discuss a few things with me.
I added my parents' address and pressed send. At least Richard and I had work in common—it was a neutral topic that would hopefully bring us back to normal, and erase all the awkwardness that had crept in over the last few weeks.
Nina thinks Richard is 1,000% full of it. "He grabbed your face and told you he loved you?" she gasped when I recapped our conversation.
"Yeah and then he said he was fucking with me and to get over myself."
"Only after you froze and didn't say anything back," Nina said. "Don't you see—he was feeling you out."
"You think?" I didn't mean for it to come out so pathetically hopeful, but it did. Nina's eyebrows pinched together, suspiciously.
"Did you want him to feel you out?"
I shrugged. "I guess I did."
Nina held up her hands like stop-sign. "Wait. Do you have feelings for Richard?"
"I went in there thinking I was going to let him down," I said. "I do have—I crunched my fingers around the next word—"feelings for Richard, but they're mixed up with so many other things that I can't figure out if they're pure or not."
"What other things?"
"Like the fact that I'm butt hurt because he rejected me. And that he's like a challenge now, whereas he never was before. I honestly don't know, but..." I lowered my voice, like what I was about to admit was shameful, which, it kind of was..."I can't stop thinking about him."
Nina jammed her straw around in her vodka soda, loosening the liquid lodged between the ice cubes. "Whenever you guys do have sex, warn me so I can leave the general vicinity of New York. So much sexual tension there's going to be like a sonic boom."
I snorted. "Cool your jets. He's with Sam. Oh, excuse me, he's crazy in love with Sam."
"I bet if you told him how you felt he wouldn't be anymore."
"I'm not doing that when I don't even understand how I feel."
"Well, figure it out, chica." Nina slurped down the rest of her drink. "And you better do it soon. Because the deeper he gets with Sam, the less pull you're going to have."
"There's nothing to do," I said. "He's with someone else."
"Your sonic boom loss," Nina said.
"I accept defeat."
A small part of me wonders if Nina really believes Richard is as into me as she says he is, or if she's just stroking my ego. I know she's been talking to Nick since he went back to LA, and I know she wants me to be cool with the two of them potentially dating. Love Nina, but girl knows how to strategize. If I really believed Richard felt the way Nina says he feels about me, I might be persuaded to say something to him. But deep down in my gut, I believe him when he says he loves Sam. I know when I'm not wanted—I ignored that instinct with Justin, and I don't want to put myself through that humiliation again.
Nina and I paid the bill and I took a cab downtown to meet William.
"Josie!" William exclaimed when he saw me. "Have you lost weight?"
"I've gained four pounds."
"You must have that Spanxie stuff on or something." Classic William. I have to admit—I miss him.
The waitress came by and William ordered an expensive bottle of wine. "Man, I missed having a corporate card," he sighed.
"You had a corporate card at Literatti," I pointed out. Doing William's expenses had been a nightmare. He could never remember what any receipt was for. "Just make something up!" he'd bark at me when I asked. Melanie, the dinosaur in accounting, hated me because she knew I was lying. I dreaded running into her in the bathroom or on the elevator. "Hello, Josie," she'd growl, all low and mean, like she was Seinfeld and I was fucking Newman or something. Frank keeps his receipts in a neat little envelope and attaches a post-it to each with a very detailed notation of what the dinner/lunch/cab ride was for. It's lovely, actually.
William guffawed. "Those tightwads? Don't you remember how they used to flag me for taking too many cabs?" He shook his head. "Cabs!" he repeated incredulously. "Because they were too cheap to spring for a car service."
"Oh, I remember," I said.
"I'm lucky to be rid of them," he said. "And you will be too."
I clasped my hands in front of me and smiled. "Will I?"
"I want you to understand a few things before this goes any further," William said. "Yes, I need an assistant, but there are caveats."
"Like CWA is the biggest, most successful agency in the country. It's not a publishing house. It is an agency. If you go to an agency, you are on track to become an agent, not an editor. It's different. You're the one brokering the deal. There is a creative component insofar as you may come up with an idea and present it to existing clients—big fat movie star clients who fancy themselves art-teests and writ-tours." William laughed, dismissively. "Then you take it out and dangle it in front of all the publishing houses and get them excited enough about it that they'll bid against each other. The agency loves candidates with house experience, it means you've got connections. But you don't get a hand in the writing. That's the dolphin work. You,"he jabbed his meaty finger at me, "you're the shark."
"Like Ari Gold," I said.
"Ari Gold is based on the CEO of CWA," William said. "And that characterization is not an exaggeration. Yeah, you're in Lit, but you'll deal with the likes of him in the talent department. You have to have thick skin. I want you to fully understand what you are getting yourself into before you come in for an interview."
"I have to interview?"
William smirked. "Toots, you gotta read for the part. You're no Meryl Streep."
"But who do I interview with?" I asked, confused. "You?"
"No, not me." William rolled his eyes. "But HR wants to meet you. So does the Lit Coordinator. Make sure you're a company guy—which you are—but they have to see it with their own eyes."
"What kind of deals are you doing there?"
"The kind that make a lot of fucking money." William rubbed his fingers together. "Which means, big bonus for you and me. Well, bigger for me of course."
The waitress appeared at the table and presented the bottle of wine to William. He nodded without even looking at it. "What kind of bonus do you make at Literatti?"
I gave him A Look. "You know I don't make a bonus there."
William howled his laughter. "Exactly!" He sipped his wine. "You and Frankie boy getting along over there?"
"I like Frank," I said. "You have different management styles, obviously, but he's very good at what he does." Even though I don't always see eye to eye with him, it was true. But even if it wasn't—I would never admit it to William. It could get back to Frank, and then it's a bridge burned.
William laughed. "This is why I want you over at CWA with me."
"Because it's easier to bitch about your boss than it is to compliment him, and I sure as hell just gave you an opening to bitch about him." He drained the rest of his wine with an impressive gulp. "It means I can trust that you will never say anything bad about me to someone who matters, even if you end up hating my guts." A big, purple toothed smile split his face in half. "But you'll never hate my guts. You and me, we make a great team."
I called my Mom the second I was in a cab on my way home. She's always the first person I go to for career advice—she was totally that 80s working girl prowling the mean city streets in her skirt suit and white Reeboks, pair of heels in her bag. In 1985, Nance was one of the only women on the trading room floor at Salomon Brothers, and her disgusting boss propositioned her for sex as casually and as often as William used to ask me to get his coffee. Nance leaned in thirty years before Lean In existed, and she knows what's up.
"What kind of compensation are they offering you?" she asked.
"William doesn't know. He said it's a discussion to have with HR."
"You don't leave for anything less than a twenty-five percent raise."
"That's a lot, Mom."
"Not with what you make."
My phone buzzed twice in my ear. I had a text, but I ignored it. "We'll see," I said. "I have to do the interview. I don't even know if I have the job."
"But it's a lateral move?" Nance clucked. "You should ask for a better title. You're almost four years out of college. That's too far along in your career to be an assistant."
"There isn't a middle ground at an agency the way there is at a publishing house. At an agency, you're one of three things—an assistant, an agent-in-training, or an agent." My phone vibrated again.
"Why can't you be an agent-in-training then?"
"Because it's this whole song and dance and you have to be nominated to get into the program. And you can't be nominated until you're already an assistant." I braced my hand against the ceiling of the cab as we rocked over a pot hole. "And it's in LA."
"You'd have to move to LA?" Nance gasped.
"Just for three months. Then you move back." My phone buzzed again. "Mom, hold on."
I pulled my phone away from my ear. I had three texts from Nina.
I'm at a bar and Richard is here with some random girl. I think it's a date.
Holy shit. He's totally making out with her right now. Holy shit.